General George Washington begins march to New York

General George Washington begins march to New York

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After the successful siege of Boston, General George Washington begins marching his unpaid soldiers from their headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, toward New York in anticipation of a British invasion, on April 4, 1776.

In a letter to the president of Congress, General Washington wrote of his intentions in marching to New York and expressed frustration with Congress for failing to send adequate funds to allow him to pay his troops. Washington wrote, "I heartily wish the money had arrived sooner, that the Militia might have been paid as soon as their time of Service expired."

CHECK OUT: An Interactive Map of George Washington's Key Battles

The Continental Congress’ inability to promptly pay or adequately supply its soldiers persisted throughout the war and continued as a subject of debate following the peace at Yorktown. Two major ramifications of the financial crisis marked the birth of the new nation. First, Congress began to pay soldiers with promises of western lands instead of currency—the same land Congress simultaneously promised to its Indian allies. Secondly, Congress’ inability to pay expenses even after winning the war eventually convinced conservative Patriots that it was necessary to overthrow the Articles of Confederation and draft the Constitution of the United States. The new and more centralized Constitution, with its three branches of government, had greater authority to raise funds and an increased ability to manage the new nation’s finances.

Alexander Hamilton, in his role as the first secretary of the treasury under President George Washington, focused his efforts on mimicking British financial institutions, most significantly in his championship of the First Bank of the United States, as a means of stabilizing the new nation’s economy.

The Continental Army was established by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, which is also recognized as the founding date of its successor, the United States Army. On that day, the Continental Congress assumed responsibility for militia regiments that had been raised by the colonies of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. These units and others authorized by Congress served in the Siege of Boston and the invasion of Quebec launched in September 1775. With these operations ongoing, Congress voted to authorize a second establishment of the army for 1776.

The enlistments of most soldiers in the Continental Army of 1775 expired on the last day of the year. On January 1, 1776, a new army was established. General George Washington had submitted recommendations for reorganization to the Continental Congress almost immediately after accepting the position of Commander-in-Chief, but these took time to consider and implement. Despite attempts to broaden the recruiting base beyond New England, the 1776 army remained skewed toward the Northeast both in terms of its composition and geographical focus.

Main Army units Edit

The bulk of the newly organized Main Army (that was commanded by General Washington) consisted of 27 infantry regiments, which were numbered in order of the seniority of the colonel of each regiment, and styled as "Continental Regiments". This differed from the regiments in the Southern Department, which retained state designations, some of which were assigned in the 1775 establishment. The Main Army regiments were created by reorganizing existing units and by encouraging soldiers to reenlist for another year. Each new regiment comprised eight companies, which at full strength fielded a total of 728 men. Of these, 640 provided the firepower (privates and corporals with muskets) the remaining were officers and staff, including three field officers (a colonel, lieutenant colonel, and major), a captain for each company, a surgeon, a quartermaster, drummers, etc. [1] Other units were also authorized.

    ("Washington's Life Guard").
  • Rawlings' Independent Maryland Rifle Company. Captain Moses Rawlings. (Consolidated with the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, June 14, 1776).
  • Williams' Independent Maryland Rifle Company. Captain Thomas Price continued from 1775 Captain Otho Holland Williams, January 14, 1776. (Consolidated with the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, June 14, 1776).
  • Stephenson's Independent Virginia Rifle Company. Captain Hugh Stephenson. (Consolidated with the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment, June 14, 1776). . Colonel Hugh Stephenson, Lieutenant Colonel Moses Rawlings, Major Otho Holland Williams. (Formed June 14, 1776).
    (Massachusetts). Colonel Henry Knox.

Canadian Department units Edit

    . Brigadier General David Wooster field commander, Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Ward. (Formed in Canada in December 1775 by consolidation of the remnants of the disbanded 4th and 5th Connecticut Regiments (1775) with the 1st Connecticut Regiment (1775) disbanded April 15, 1776). (New York). Colonel Goose Van Schaick. (Raised from the 2nd New York Regiment of 1775 designated the 1st New York Regiment in 1777). . Colonel Arthur St. Clair. (Assigned to the Canadian Department, January 8, 1776 designated the 3rd Pennsylvania Regiment in 1777). . Colonel James Livingston. . Colonel Moses Hazen.
    (New Hampshire). Colonel Timothy Bedel. (Most of Bedel's command was captured at the Battle of The Cedars in May 1776, and was released shortly afterwards). (Massachusetts). Colonel Elisha Porter.
  • Burrall's Regiment (Connecticut). Colonel Charles Burrall.
  • 8th Continental Regiment (New Hampshire). Colonel Enoch Poor. (Massachusetts). Colonel John Paterson.
  • 24th Continental Regiment (Massachusetts). Colonel John Greaton. (Massachusetts) Colonel William Bond.
  • 2nd Continental Regiment (New Hampshire). Colonel James Reed. (New Hampshire). Colonel John Stark. . Colonel William Maxwell.
  • 4th Pennsylvania Battalion. Colonel Anthony Wayne. (Redesignated the 5th Pennsylvania Regiment in 1777).
  • 6th Pennsylvania Battalion. Colonel William Irvine. (Redesignated the 7th Pennsylvania Regiment in 1777).
  • Dubois' Regiment (New York). Colonel Lewis Dubois. (Redesignated the 5th New York Regiment in 1777).
  • Nicholson's Regiment (New York). Colonel John Nicholson. (Disbanded December 31, 1776).
  • Warner's Regiment (Vermont). Colonel Seth Warner. (Reraised and expanded from the Green Mountain Boys).

Northern Department units Edit

  • Elmore's Regiment (Connecticut). Colonel Samuel Elmore.
  • 1st New York Regiment (1775–1776). Colonel Alexander McDougall. (Reorganized February 24-May 21, 1776 assigned to the Main Army, April 24, 1776).
  • 2nd New York Regiment (1776). Colonel James Clinton. (Raised from the 3rd New York Regiment of 1775 designated the 4th New York Regiment in 1777).
  • 3rd New York Regiment (1776). Colonel Rudolphus Ritzema. (Raised from the 4th New York Regiment of 1775 designated the 2nd New York Regiment in 1777).
  • 4th New York Regiment (1776). Colonel Cornelius D. Wynkoop. (Consolidated with Van Schaick's Regiment to form 1st New York Regiment in 1777). (1776). (Assigned to various departments in 1776). (1776). (Assigned to various departments in 1776).
  • 1st Pennsylvania Battalion. Colonel John Philip De Haas. (Assigned to the Main Army in November designated the 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment in 1777).
  • Mackay's Battalion (Pennsylvania). Colonel Aeneas Mackay. (Assigned to the Main Army in November designated the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment in 1777).
  • Wool's Artillery Detachment (New York). Captain Lieutenant Isaiah Wool. (Remnant of Lamb's Artillery Company of 1775 assigned to the 2d Continental Artillery Regiment in 1777).
  • Bauman's Continental Artillery Company. Captain Sebastian Bauman. (Assigned to the Main Army, April 13, 1776 later part of the 2nd Continental Artillery Regiment).
  • Romans' Continental Artillery Company. Captain Bernard Romans.

Eastern Department units Edit

  • 6th Continental Regiment (Massachusetts). Colonel Asa Whitcomb. (Assigned to the Northern Department August 8, 1776). (Massachusetts). Colonel John Glover. (Stationed at Beverly, Massachusetts [2] assigned to the Main Army in New York on July 20, 1776).
  • 16th Continental Regiment (Massachusetts). Colonel Paul Dudley Sargent. (Assigned to the Main Army in New York on July 11, 1776).
  • 18th Continental Regiment (Massachusetts). Colonel Edmund Phinney. (Assigned to the Northern Department on August 3, 1776).
  • 27th Continental Regiment (Massachusetts). Colonel Israel Hutchinson. (Assigned to the Main Army in New York on July 11, 1776). (New Hampshire). Colonel Pierse Long. (Assigned to the Northern Department, November 22, 1776).
  • Ward's Regiment (Connecticut). Colonel Andrew Ward. (Assigned to the Main Army, August 1, 1776).

Two regiments of Rhode Island state troops which served with the Continental Army in 1776, but were not placed on the Continental establishment. [3]

    (Rhode Island). Colonel William Richmond. (Assigned to the Eastern Department, November 1775). (Rhode Island). Colonel Henry Babcock: January 15, 1776 Colonel Christopher Lippitt: May 1776. (Assigned to the Main Army, May 11, 1776).

Middle Department units Edit

The Middle Department was created on February 27, 1776, [4] as a military administrative district embracing New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland. When the Main Army moved from Boston to New York in April 1776 and Washington opened his headquarters in New York City, he assumed direct command of the department. As a result the Main Army became, for the remainder of the war, the field army associated with the Middle Department. [5] At the same time New York and the Northern Department became practically coextensive only the Hudson Highlands and parts of New York to the south remained in the Middle Department. [6] These changes left Washington holding three posts at once: Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, Commanding General of the field army under his immediate command, the Main Army, and Commanding General of the Middle Department.

  • 3rd Pennsylvania Battalion. Colonel John Shee. (Assigned to the Middle Department, February 27, 1776 assigned to the Main Army, June 11, 1776 captured at Fort Washington, New York, on November 16, 1776 reconstituted and designated the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment in 1777).
  • 5th Pennsylvania Battalion. Colonel Robert Magaw. (Assigned to the Middle Department, February 27, 1776 assigned to the Main Army, June 11, 1776 captured at Fort Washington, New York, on November 16, 1776 reconstituted and designated the 6th Pennsylvania Regiment in 1777). . Colonel John Haslet: January 19, 1776 Colonel David Hall: April 5, 1777. (Assigned to the Main Army, August 5, 1776. Colonel Haslet was killed at the Battle of Princeton, January 3, 1777). . Colonel William Smallwood. (State regiment assigned to the Main Army, July 6, 1776 placed on the Continental establishment, August 17, 1776). (Separate state companies assigned to the Main Army, July 6-August 15, 1776 placed on the Continental establishment, August 17, 1776). (8th Maryland). Colonel Nicholas Haussegger. (Assigned to the Main Army, September 23, 1776).
  • Westmoreland Independent Companies (Westmoreland County, Connecticut). Captains Samuel Ransom and Robert Durkee. (Assigned to the Main Army, December 12, 1776).

Southern Department units Edit

The Continental Congress established the Southern Department on February 27, 1776. [4] The department was the organizing unit for regiments raised in Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia.


Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau was a military officer who commanded the French expeditionary force sent in 1780 to assist in the United States&rsquo rebellion against Great Britain. He commanded all French forces at the Siege of Yorktown and retired after fifty years of service as a Maréchal de France.

The future comte de Rochambeau was born in Vendôme 1725. He began his military career at the age of fifteen when he entered the French army as a cornet of cavalry. During the War of Austrian Succession, he served as an aide-de-camp to a series of prominent generals who mentored him throughout the war. At the age of twenty-two, Rochambeau received his commission as Colonel of Régiment de la Marche.

When the Seven Years&rsquo War started, Régiment de la Marche was ordered to assist in the capture of British Minorca. Rochambeau&rsquos actions in that campaign earned him a promotion to brigadier general. He spent the rest of the war campaigning in Germany. Rochambeau served as both a line officer directly in command of troops and a staff officer assisting more senior generals. He witnessed firsthand the disastrous effects that squabbling between senior officers could have on an army and its military effectiveness.

The Seven Years War was a disaster for France, and after the war King Louis XV appointed Rochambeau Inspector of Infantry, and tasked him with reforming the French army&rsquos foot soldiers. Rochambeau aided in the development and implementation of numerous organizational and tactical reforms, including the adoption of light infantry tactics.

After Louis XVI declared war on Great Britain in support of the rebelling North American colonists, he ordered Rochambeau to command the lead elements of a southern England invasion. The operation was canceled in part because of weather and logistical challenges. Subsequently, Louis and his ministers sent Rochambeau and roughly 4,000 soldiers to North America to aid directly the potions of the American Continental Army operating around New York City.

Rochambeau&rsquos expeditionary force arrived at Newport, Rhode Island in July of 1780. Under the impression France would be sending additional troops and because the Continental Congress could not fund any offensive campaign in 1780, Rochambeau&rsquos army remained in Newport for nearly a year. Rochambeau and Continental Army commander George Washington held a series of meetings throughout that winter discussing their plans for a major operation in 1781.

Rochambeau&rsquos previous experience with toxic army politics made him uniquely suited to command a military force in an auxiliary role to an ally. By order of Louis XVI, Rochambeau was to serve as a subordinate to Washington, who while a capable general had significantly fewer years in uniform than Rochambeau. Prior Franco-American operations at Savannah, Georgia and Newport, Rhode Island in 1779 had gone poorly because the French and American commanders could not get along. With Washington and Rochambeau however, that friction never developed. Even when the two vigorously debated whether to attack New York City directly or striking at the British elsewhere, they worked through their differences admirably and respectfully.

By mid-summer of 1781, it became increasingly apparent to both Washington and Rochambeau that an attack New York City was impractical. By August, their soldiers were marching south to attempt the capture of a British force under the command of Charles Cornwallis near Yorktown, Virginia. Washington hosted Rochambeau at Mount Vernon on their way south, and the two armies assembled in Virginia by late September. The siege of Yorktown began on September 29 and ended on October 19.

Following the siege, Rochambeau kept his army in Virginia able to aid either Washington, who had returned north, or Nathanael Greene&rsquos American forces operating in South Carolina. By the summer of 1782, French officials decided Rochambeau&rsquos force was no longer needed on the North American continent. Rochambeau returned home to France, while the French government sent his former soldiers to the Caribbean in preparation for an invasion of British Jamaica.

After the American Revolution, Louis XVI appointed Rochambeau a Maréchal de France. That promotion proved problematic for Rochambeau when the monarchy fell during the French Revolution. Despite years of loyal service to the Republic, he was imprisoned and investigated by the revolutionaries. Unlike many, Rochambeau managed to avoid the guillotine and was eventually freed. He lived out his retirement in his beloved Vendôme, never returning to active military service.

Joseph F. Stoltz III
George Washington's Mount Vernon


Le Comte, Solange and Daniel Le Comte. Rochambeau. Paris: Lavauzelle, 1976.

Rochambeau, Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de. Mémoires militaires, historiques et politiques de Rochambeau, ancien maréchal de France, et grand officier de la Légion d'honneur. Edited by Luce de Lancival. Paris: Chez Fain, 1809.

Scott, Samuel F. From Yorktown to Valmy: The Transformation of the French Army in the Age of Revolution. Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1998.

Trentinian, Jacques de. La France au secours de l'Amerique: autopsie de l'expedition particuliere du comte de Rochambeau et du chevalier de Ternay, mars-de?cembre 1780. Paris: SPM, 2016.

Whitridge, Arnold. Rochambeau: America's Neglected Founding Father. New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1965.

We can't tell a lie — lock of George Washington’s hair up for auction

Americans widely believe that George Washington had wooden teeth.

But his dentures were, in fact, constructed from “chunks of ivory from hippopotamuses, walruses, and elephants,” along with teeth from a more diabolical source — his own slaves.

“At the age of eleven, he inherited ten slaves from his father, and over the next 56 years, he would sometimes rely on them to supply replacement teeth,” writes Alexis Coe in her new biography, “You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington” (Viking), out now.

“He paid his slaves for their teeth, but not at fair market value, [paying] two-thirds less than . . . offered in newspaper advertisements,” writes Coe, a consulting producer for “Washington,” the three-part miniseries premiering tonight on The History Channel.

Coe’s book delves into how Washington mistreated his slaves, lied to incite a battle and generally disappointed the Founding Fathers, countering his long-held image as an honest man “who cannot tell a lie.”

A slave named Isaac once told of an incident where Washington ordered him to cut a log. But Isaac was unable to chop it to Washington’s exact specifications.

In response, Washington “gave me such a slap on the side of my head that I whirled round like a top & before I knew where I was Master was gone,” Isaac later told one of Washington’s nephews.

As president, George Washington shuttled his most prized slave back and forth from Philadelphia to his Virginia plantation (pictured) every six months to skirt a residency law that would have freed the man. Getty Images

When he was traveling, Washington made sure his slaves toiled from sunrise to sundown, six days a week, kept in line by “overseers” who wielded whips and hickory sticks, a system he found “very proper.”

During Washington’s first presidential term, when he lived in Philadelphia, the state of Pennsylvania passed a law that would have led to his slaves obtaining their freedom. He wrote to a relative that “the idea of freedom might be too great a temptation for them to resist . . . I do not think they would be benefitted by the change.”

For the most prized of his slaves, he took advantage of a loophole in the law: Slaves would only be freed if they remained in the state for six months, so he arranged for his most valued slave to travel to Mount Vernon, Va., every six months, officially keeping him as his property.

When that slave escaped with another in 1797, Washington was adamant they should be captured and returned to him. One was never found. The other, located in the free state of New Hampshire, agreed to return under certain conditions, including that she would never be sold. When Washington learned that she tried to set terms, he went “apoplectic.”

“Such a compromise is totally inadmissible,” he wrote to the man he’d hired to find her. “However well disposed I might be to a gradual abolition . . . it would neither be politic or just to reward unfaithfulness.”

Coe notes that Washington never freed a slave during his lifetime, nor did he do anything to free them as president. And while he claimed to be principled against selling people “as you would do cattle in the market,” he did so on at least three occasions — including once to a man in the West Indies, where slavery was known to be a special kind of hell.

Washington knew that the West Indies “would bring about a brutal change in their lives,” Coe writes, since “they would likely work on sugar plantations under overseers who were quick to use their whips their diets would be poor, their medical care worse, [and] they were virtually guaranteed a premature death.”

Coe also takes aim at Washington’s reputation as a brilliant military strategist, noting that he lost more battles than he won, and that as a young soldier, he committed a blunder so egregious that it ignited a global conflict.

‘Too illiterate, unlearned, unread for his station and reputation.’

- Fellow Founding Father John Adams, on George Washington’s eight years as the nation’s first commander in chief

At 22, Washington was a major in the Virginia militia, which then fought on behalf of the British crown.

Robert Dinwiddie, the British governor of Virginia, believed the French had set up camp on British territory, so in 1753 he assigned Washington to accompany local Seneca tribe allies to the French fort to assess the situation.

Dinwiddie was clear this was to be a diplomatic mission, and “urged discretion and caution.”

But Washington intentionally inflamed the situation. Knowing that the Seneca chief, Tanacharison, believed that the French had “captured, cooked, and eaten his father,” Washington told the chief and his soldiers that the French intended to kill them. He later wrote that this manipulation “had its desired effect.”

When their party arrived at the French camp, a battle erupted. Ten French soldiers, including the commander, Joseph Coulon de Jumonville, were killed, and 21 were captured.

But the French insisted in an official report that their mission had been a diplomatic one with no intent for battle, a claim confirmed by a letter found on de Jumonville’s corpse. France blamed Washington for the tragedy and used it to rouse public sentiment against the British.

The incident helped lead to a wider war between Britain and France known here as the French and Indian War and as the Seven Years War in Europe. The conflict eventually drew in Austria, Germany, Prussia, Russia, Spain and Sweden, and the fighting spread to colonial land on three continents.

“At the age of 22, Washington had committed a political misstep of global consequence,” writes Coe. “If the American Revolution had not taken place, Washington would probably be remembered today as the instigator of humanity’s first world war, one that lasted seven years.”

But Washington’s reputation didn’t suffer. He gave his diary of the incident to Dinwiddie, who turned it into a propaganda tool for the British, and continued his professional ascent.

By the time of the American Revolution, Washington had a vast knowledge of the Royal Army, a 6-foot-2 stature that lent him automatic gravitas and, after 13 successful years as a farmer, plenty of wealth. He was also fiercely dedicated to the American cause.

When the time came to choose a leader for the colonial army, no one else was considered, and he was seen as equally deserving to serve as the new country’s first president.

But by the time Washington left office in 1797, the country was bitterly divided over US relationships with warring Britain and France, and most of the Founding Fathers were done with him.

“The President is fortunate to get off just as the bubble is bursting, leaving others to hold the bag,” a resentful Thomas Jefferson complained in a letter sent that year to James Madison. “He will have his usual good fortune of reaping credit from the good arts of others, and leaving them that of his errors.”

James Monroe, who would later become the United States’ fifth president, infuriated Washington in 1797 with a 473-page critique of his administration, including a claim that he used Chief Justice John Jay in various unconstitutional executive-branch roles, such as acting Secretary of State.

Even John Adams, who had once called Washington “an exemplification of the American character,” later changed his tune, writing of his presidency in an 1812 letter that he was “too illiterate, unlearned, unread for his station and reputation.”

Certainly, Washington never earned a reputation as a man who fought for equality. While it is widely believed that he freed his slaves upon his death in 1799, in fact, only one slave, a favorite named William Lee, was let go. The rest, he decreed, would only be freed after the death of his wife, Martha.

But this caused a problem for Martha, as she spent the rest of her life “deathly afraid of his slaves,” who knew that her passing would lead to their freedom.

“She did not feel as tho her life was safe in their hands,” Abigail Adams wrote in a letter to her sister. After a lengthy spell of poor health, Martha Washington succumbed to a high fever and died at age 70 in 1802.

Battle of Long Island

Historian and author Joe Ellis describes the 1776 New York Campaign - the campaign that almost led to the destruction of the Continental Army and the career of George Washington.

After the British evacuated Boston on March 17, 1776, General George Washington guessed correctly that their next target would be New York. By mid-April, Washington had marched his 19,000 soldiers to Lower Manhattan. He strengthened the batteries that guarded the harbor and constructed forts in northern Manhattan and on Brooklyn Heights across the East River on Long Island.

Washington waited throughout June for the British to appear, hoping that somehow his undisciplined troops could hold off an attack, which he was certain would come in Manhattan. In early July, 400 British ships with 32,000 men commanded by General William Howe arrived at Staten Island. When Howe offered a pardon to the rebels, Washington answered, "Those who have committed no fault want no pardon." 1 While he was still convinced that the British would attack Manhattan, he sent more troops to Brooklyn.

Washington placed General Israel Putnam in charge of Brooklyn Heights and stationed General John Sullivan to the south and Lord Stirling to the southwest on the Heights of Guan. He posted guards along the main roads leading through the heights, but failed to secure the rarely used Jamaica Pass to the east. This proved to be a costly mistake since General Howe planned to lead 10,000 men through the pass on the evening of August 26 and attack the Americans on Brooklyn Heights from the rear. At the same time, General Leopold Philip Von Heister would launch his Hessians against Sullivan's troops, while the redcoats of General James Grant would attack Stirling's position. Early on the morning of August 27, British soldiers fired on American pickets stationed near the Red Lion Tavern at a crossroads in Brooklyn. Washington hurried across the East River from Manhattan but could do little more than observe the fight from a redoubt on Cobble Hill. Sullivan's men fought bravely but were cut down by Hessian artillery and bayonets. When he realized that the main British force had come through the Jamaica Pass and would soon surround him, Sullivan ordered his men to retreat to Brooklyn Heights before he himself was captured.

General Stirling held off the British for several hours but retreated when he also realized that he would be surrounded. He led 400 Maryland soldiers in a desperate fight at the Old Stone House, giving his soldiers time to flee before he was taken prisoner. Washington, who looked down on the terrible scene could only remark, "Good God, what brave fellows I must lose." 2

In this video from Mount Vernon on Vimeo, Joe Ellis, author of Revolutionary Summer, discusses George Washington's challenges, mistakes, and lessons learned during the important New York Campaign of 1776.

General Howe halted the fighting by the early afternoon and directed his men to dig trenches around the American position on the next day. Before they could be surrounded, Washington ordered his men to evacuate Long Island. From late in the evening of August 29 to dawn on the following morning, Washington watched as 9,000 Continentals were rowed back to Manhattan. As the sun came up, a fog miraculously descended on the remaining men crossing the river. According to eyewitnesses, George Washington was the last man to leave Brooklyn.

1. Quoted in David McCullough, 1776 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2006), 145.


Chernow, Ron. Washington: A Life. New York: Penguin Press, 2010.

Lengel, Edward. General George Washington. New York: Random House, 2005.

10 Facts about Washington's Crossing of the Delaware River

General George Washington and the Continental Army's famously crossed the Delaware River on December 25-26, 1776.

1. Washington crossed the Delaware River so that his army could attack an isolated garrison of Hessian troops located at Trenton, New Jersey.

So why were Washington and his bedraggled Continental Army trying to cross an ice-choked Delaware River on a cold winter&rsquos night? It wasn&rsquot just to get to the other side. Washington&rsquos aim was to conduct a surprise attack upon a Hessian garrison of roughly 1,400 soldiers located in and around Trenton, New Jersey. Washington hoped that a quick victory at Trenton would bolster sagging morale in his army and encourage more men to join the ranks of the Continentals come the new year. After several councils of war, General George Washington set the date for the river crossing for Christmas night 1776.

2. Washington&rsquos attack plan included three separate river crossings, but only one made it across.

George Washington&rsquos plan of attack included three different crossings of the Delaware River on Christmas night. Col. Cadwalader was to lead his force of 1,200 Philadelphia militia and 600 Continentals across the river near Burlington, New Jersey. His role was to harass and prevent the British and Hessian units near the town from racing north to support the Hessians at Trenton. Gen. James Ewing&rsquos force of 800 Pennsylvania militia was to cross the river at Trenton and take up defensive positions along the Assunpink River and bridge. Ewing&rsquos soldiers would work to prevent the Hessians from retreating from Trenton. And Washington and his 2,400 soldiers would cross at McConkey&rsquos and Johnson&rsquos ferries, roughly 10 miles north of Trenton and would then march down to Trenton to surprise the garrison at dawn. This was an ambitious plan, one that even well rested and experienced troops would have had difficulty in executing. Both Cadwalader and Ewing&rsquos forces were unable to cross the ice-choked river. And Washington&rsquos main force managed a crossing, but was more than three hours delayed.

3. Spies and deserters had informed the British and Hessians that Trenton was likely to be attacked.

Lurking within Washington&rsquos headquarters was a British spy who has never been identified. This spy was privy to the early deliberations of Washington&rsquos war council and correctly passed along to British Major General James Grant that Washington&rsquos army was looking to attack north of the river. Grant passed along this information to General Leslie and Col. Von Donop who then passed it along to Col. Johann Rall at Trenton. And while Grant stated that he did not think Washington would attack, he did command Rall to be vigilant. Rall acknowledged receipt of this important intelligence at about the same time that Washington was beginning his crossing. With typical Hessian bravado, Rall dismissed or even welcomed the threat stating &ldquoLet them come&hellip Why defenses? We will go at them with the bayonet.&rdquo

The day before, Rall had received two American deserters who had crossed the river and told the Hessians that the American army was ready to move. Other loyalists informed the Hessians that an attack was imminent. So why wasn&rsquot Rall more active in opposing the crossing or better prepared to defend the town? History records that a series of false alarms and the growing storm had given the Hessian defenders a sense that no attack was likely this night. How might history have changed if the Hessians responded differently to all this intelligence?

4. Washington&rsquos force used a collection of cargo boats and ferries to transport his men across the Delaware.

Thanks to the foresight of General Washington and the actions of the New Jersey militia, the American forces had brought all available watercraft on the Delaware to the southern bank, thus denying the British the use of these crafts, while making them available for an American recrossing. Much of Washington&rsquos force crossed the river in shallow draft Durham boats &ndash strongly built cargo vessels, most between 40 and 60 feet in length, designed to move iron ore and bulk goods down the river to markets in and around Philadelphia. These stout craft with their high side walls were robust enough to survive the ice-choked Delaware. Heavy artillery pieces and horses were transported on large flat-bottomed ferries and other watercraft more suited to carrying that type of difficult cargo. It shouldn&rsquot be surprising that most of Washington&rsquos soldiers stood during the crossing since the bottoms of Durham boats were neither comfortable nor dry.

5. Experienced watermen from New England and the Philadelphia area ably guided the boats across the challenging river.

One factor in Washington&rsquos favor was the large number of experienced watermen to be found at the crossing site. Col. John Glover&rsquos Marblehead regiment was filled with New Englanders who had extensive experience as seamen. Glover&rsquos men were all quite identifiable with their short blue seaman&rsquos jackets, tarred pants, and woolen caps. Other experienced watermen from the Philadelphia area, many familiar with this exact stretch of river, had also congregated in the area and were able to provide the muscle and skill needed to make the perilous nighttime crossing.

6. The crossing was made worse by the arrival of a strong storm that brought freezing rain, snow, and terrifying winds.

By the time that most of the soldiers had reached the launching point for the boats, the drizzle had turned into a driving rain. And by 11 o&rsquoclock that evening, while the boats were crossing the river, a howling nor&rsquoeaster made the miserable crossing even worse. One soldier recorded that &ldquoit blew a perfect hurricane&rdquo as snow and sleet lashed Washington&rsquos army.

7. Washington&rsquos carefully planned timetable was woefully behind schedule and Washington contemplated canceling the attack.

It shouldn&rsquot be all that surprising that Washington&rsquos carefully choreographed attack plan should have fallen so far behind schedule. His men were tired, hungry, and ill-clothed. They had to march many miles through the dark and snow to even reach the river crossing site. From there, they needed to board boats at night, during a frightening nor&rsquoeaster. Finally, across the river, Washington was dismayed to discover that he was a full three hours behind his schedule. His plan had called for another march of 10 miles to the outskirts of Trenton on roads that were now slick with ice and snow. With every delay Washington&rsquos fears that his army would be caught in the open magnified. What to do? Contemplating his choices Washington was seen brooding on a crate near a fire. Washington later wrote, when remembering this fateful moment, &ldquo&hellipAs I was certain there was no making a retreat without being discovered and harassed on repassing the River, I determined to push on at all Events.&rdquo

8. The Continentals brought a great quantity of artillery across the river.

One would think that crossing an icy river at night was hard enough without also bringing a great contingent of heavy artillery pieces with them. Despite the trouble, Washington and the Continental army wanted the extra firepower that the artillery could produce. Under the overall command of Col. Henry Knox, the Continentals brought 18 cannons over the river &ndash 3-Pounders, 4-Pounders, some 6-Pounders, horses to pull the carriages, and enough ammunition for the coming battle. The 6-Pounders, weighing as much as 1,750 pounds were the most difficult to transport to the far side of the river. But in the end, all the trouble of moving this large artillery train to Trenton proved its worth. Knox would place the bulk of his artillery at the top of the town where its fire commanded the center of Trenton.

9. The Delaware River is less than 300 yards wide at the point where the army crossed.

Despite how the Delaware River is commonly portrayed in works of art, the site where General Washington and his army crossed was rather narrow. Durham boats and flat ferries were used to cross. They were probably fixed to a wire strung across the river.

10. One of the most famous American paintings shows Washington and his army crossing the Delaware River.

Painted in 1851 by German artist Emanuel Leutze, Washington Crossing the Delaware became a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic. Painted in Dusseldorf Germany, Washington Crossing the Delaware shows a bold General Washington navigating through the frozen river with his compatriots braving the elements on their way to victory at Trenton. While the painting was in Germany, Leutze hoped that this brave episode in pursuit of American independence and republican rule would stir his fellow countrymen to more liberal reforms. In the fall of 1851, the painting was shipped to the United States where it wowed audiences in New York City and the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington DC. The New York Evening Mirror boldly called it &ldquothe grandest, most majestic, and most effective painting ever exhibited in America.&rdquo

Leutze went to great lengths to make his portrait accurate, but even his efforts still left many inaccuracies in place. Nevertheless, the 12&rsquo 5&rdquo by 21&rsquo 3&rdquo (3.8m x 6.5m) painting stirred the patriotic emotions of countless Americans who have seen the painting which now is on display in the American Gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Other Facts

  • Col. Henry Knox was given command of the river crossing operation.
  • It took the American army roughly 4 hours to march from the river crossing site to the outskirts of Trenton
  • Temperatures for the crossing ranged from 29 degrees to 33 degrees, with brisk winds coming out of the northeast.
  • Future US President James Monroe crossed with the American forces and was wounded at the Battle of Trenton.
  • Washington chose the challenge or counter-sign of &ldquoVictory or Death&rdquo for his forces who crossed the river.
  • George Washington was 44 years old at the time of the Delaware River crossing.
  • There were roughly 1,380 Hessian soldiers in and around Trenton at the start of the battle.
  • Washington&rsquos Crossing by David Hackett Fischer. Oxford and New York, 2004.
  • General George Washington: A Military Life by Edward Lengel. Random House, 2005.
  • Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence by John Ferling. Oxford, 2007.
  • Washington Crossing Historic Park, Pennsylvania Trail of History Guide. Stackpole Books, 2004.
  • Washington Crossing the Delaware: Restoring an American Masterpiece. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2011.

Video Series

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Why did Washington cross the Delaware? Learn that and more about the Trenton-Princeton Campaign.

Revolutionary War

10 Facts about the Battle of Princeton

Washington followed up his victories at Trenton with one more at the Battle of Princeton.

The Revolutionary War

General George Washington played an important role during the American Revolution.

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Mount Vernon is owned and maintained in trust for the people of the United States by the Mount Vernon Ladies' Association of the Union, a private, non-profit organization.

We don't accept government funding and rely upon private contributions to help preserve George Washington's home and legacy.

George Washington: Defeated at the Battle of Long Island

General George Washington knew he had badly miscalculated. On August 27, 1776, British forces under a far more experienced military professional, General Sir William Howe, had soundly drubbed the American army in the Battle of Long Island and were now poised to finish it off. Outnumbered and out- generaled, with their backs to the East River and the British in front of them, the Americans appeared doomed. If Washington lost his army, it could mean the end of the Revolution.

Washington was well aware that his experience in the French and Indian War, 20 years earlier, hardly qualified him for his current position as commander in chief of the American armies. As a young colonial officer serving the British, Washington had lost a battle to the French at his hastily erected Fort Necessity in 1754. Serving as a militia colonel under British General Edward Braddock in 1755, the Virginian had fought gallantly at Fort Duquesne, but the British lost anyway. His one success had been a surprise attack against a small French party early in the war. ‘I heard the bullets whistle,’ Washington wrote to his brother Lawrence afterward ‘and believe me, there is something charming in the sound.’ (After a London newspaper printed Washington’s letter, King George II wryly remarked, ‘He would not say so had he heard many.’) The Americans were finding the sound somewhat less charming after the battles at Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill. Whether they were prepared for it or not, the colonies were now at war — a war requiring an army and a commander in chief to lead it.

Patriot leader John Adams and his cousin Samuel knew that finding a commander acceptable to all the colonies would be difficult. Charles Lee, Benjamin Church, Israel Putnam, and even John Hancock wanted the position. But the two Adams men decided Washington would lend dignity to the cause. Furthermore, placing a Virginian in the post would help deflect criticism that Massachusetts was dominating the Revolution. Although he did not lobby for the post, Washington signaled his willingness to accept it by wearing his scarlet and blue uniform of the Virginia militia to the meetings of the Second Continental Congress.

On June 15, 1775, the Congress approved the choice of Washington. The new commander in chief then read a letter of acceptance. ‘Mr. President, tho’ I am truly sensible of the high honour done me in this appointment, yet I feel distress from the consciousness that my abilities and Military experience may not be equal to the extensive and important Trust,’ he said. ‘However, as the Congress desires, I will enter upon the momentous duty and, exert every power I Possess in their service for the Support of the Glorious Cause . . . .’ He also said he would keep an ‘exact account’ of his expenses and that he would accept no more than that for his service.

Washington achieved a quick victory in Boston when he placed cannon captured at Fort Ticonderoga atop Dorchester Heights and forced the British out of the city. Washington and his most experienced and trusted commander at that time, General Charles Lee, believed that the British would probably focus their efforts on the New York area. It was a logical assumption. If General Howe controlled New York City, he could send armies north or south while his brother, Admiral Richard ‘Black Dick’ Howe, could easily lend naval support wherever General Howe might need it.

Washington and Lee knew it would be difficult to defend New York, but it was a political necessity. At the very least the Americans had to make the British pay severely for the city, as they had made them pay at Bunker Hill. So with Lee back in the Boston area, Washington marched to New York to try to accomplish the nearly impossible. He planned to defend New York City by digging in and making earthworks for gun positions in Manhattan, in Brooklyn, and on the Battery. In addition, he intended to build Fort Washington up on Manhattan Island’s northern tip. The fortifications themselves were well engineered and executed, but the plan was too ambitious and spread the Patriot forces too thin.

General Washington placed his largest contingent of troops, numbering 4,000 and commanded by Nathanael Greene, on Long Island’s Brooklyn Heights, overlooking Brooklyn and New York City. He considered these soldiers to be his best units. On paper Washington probably had about 20,000 men in his army. But half of them were in various state militias, poorly trained, poorly equipped, and lacking discipline. Many in the regular army suffered from camp diseases and were too ill to fight. Facing them were General Howe and approximately 32,000 soldiers, including some 8,000 Hessians. Admiral Howe supported his brother with the largest expeditionary force Britain had ever dispatched — 10,000 sailors on 30 warships, with 1,200 guns and hundreds of supporting vessels. ‘Every thing breathes the Appearance of War,’ wrote the commander of one British frigate. ‘The Number of Transports are incredible. I believe there are more than 500 of different kinds, besides the King’s ships — a Force so formidable would make the first Power in Europe tremble . . . .’

On August 22 the British made their opening moves. In six hours Admiral Howe efficiently ferried his brother’s troops from Staten Island to Long Island and landed them below Greene’s position on Brooklyn Heights. Unfortunately for the Americans, Greene had become seriously ill, and Washington replaced him with John Sullivan of New Hampshire. Dissatisfied with Sullivan’s performance, Washington put another New Englander, Israel Putnam of Connecticut, in his place. As a result, he had a commander in the field who had no knowledge of the local terrain.

Washington worried about how his largely untested army would stand up under fire. In an attempt to motivate his men, he wrote out general orders and had them read to his troops. ‘The time is now near at hand, which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves whether they are to have any property they can call their own whether their homes and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the conduct and courage of this army . . . . We have therefore to resolve to conquer or die… ‘ General Putnam set up his line of defense on a wooded rise called the Heights of Guan. The ridge ran roughly parallel to the East River behind it. Four passes cut through the heights. The Americans were defending three of them, but in a colossal strategic blunder Putnam left the one on his left flank, Jamaica Pass, unprotected. It was all the advantage Howe needed. On the night of August 26 the British general personally took charge of a force of 10,000 troops under Sir Henry Clinton, Lord Charles Cornwallis, and Sir Hugh Percy and, guided by local Tories, moved through Jamaica Pass so he could fall upon the Americans from the rear. Early the next morning cannons signaled the British to begin their attack all along the American front. General Philip von Heister’s Hessians kept the American center busy, while General James Grant’s 5,000 troops hit the American right. Then Howe’s 10,000 soldiers emerged from Jamaica Pass and wrapped up the unprotected left flank and the American rear. Howe’s surprise was complete. ‘[W]e were ordered to attempt a retreat by fighting our way through the enemy, who had . . . nearly filled every field and road between us and our lines [at Brooklyn],’ wrote an American soldier. ‘We had not retreated a quarter of a mile before we were fired upon by an advanced part of the enemy, and those upon our rear were playing upon us with their artillery. Our men fought with more than Roman virtue . . . .’ The Hessians moving in from the center attacked especially fiercely — sometimes bayoneting Americans trying to surrender. ‘We took care to tell the Hessians that the Rebels had resolved to give no quarters to them in particular, which made them fight desperately and put all to death that fell into their hands,’ a British soldier wrote.

The day proved to be a disaster for the Americans, but it would have been even worse if not for the action of William Smallwood’s regiment of 400 to 500 men from Maryland, temporarily commanded by a young and capable major named Mordecai Gist. Although inexperienced, they were among the best and bravest troops that day. While under fierce attack they made an orderly retreat to the Cortelyou house, a stone structure that commanded the Mill Dam Road and bridge, the only escape route across the Gowanus Salt Marsh.

American General William Alexander (who claimed a Scottish title and called himself Lord Stirling) ordered Gist and 250 men to hold off the enemy while the other Americans withdrew across the Mill Dam Road. Not only did Gist’s men hold off the British, they made six counterattacks before being forced to scatter and make their individual ways back to the American lines. Watching from afar, General Washington turned to Israel Putnam. ‘Good God, what brave fellows I must this day lose,’ he said. Those few surviving Marylanders who could swim and who were lucky made it back. ‘There was in this action a regiment of Maryland troops (volunteers), all young gentlemen,’ recalled Joseph Plumb Martin, then 17 years old and a member of the nearby Connecticut Fifth. ‘When they came out of the water and mud to us, looking like water rats, it was a truly pitiful sight. Many of them were killed in the pond and many were drowned.’ The British had soon backed the Americans into a defensive position two miles across and about one mile deep on the shore of the East River. Fortunately for Washington, the winds had prevented Admiral Howe from sailing his fleet up the river and using his great firepower to wreak havoc with the patriots. The general knew only too well what would happen if the wind changed.

Despite the urging of subordinates who wanted to complete their victory, General Howe stopped his attack. Perhaps he feared a repeat of the costly and bloody ‘victory’ he had won at Bunker Hill. In a report to the British Parliament, Howe later said that the American army ‘could be had at a cheap price,’ meaning through a siege. Whatever Howe thought, his delay helped save Washington and the American cause.

Washington now called on Colonel John Glover of Massachusetts, who commanded one of the army’s crack regiments. Glover’s ‘Marvelous Men from Marblehead’ were well trained and wore smart blue-and-white uniforms. They were seamen and fishermen, so they were accustomed to shipboard discipline and were quick to carry out orders. As one Pennsylvania officer wrote, ‘[T]he only exception I recollect to have seen to the miserably constituted bands [Massachusetts regiments] was the regiment of Glover. There was an appearance of discipline in this corps.’ Washington had used Glover and his men before. The Hannah, the first ship to sail in the service of the new United States, was Colonel Glover’s own schooner, for which he found cannons and trained a crew and then successfully harassed British shipping and captured supplies for the Continental Army. In the wake of Hannah’s success, Washington asked Glover for two more ships to create what became known as ‘Washington’s Navy.’

John Glover is truly one of the forgotten men of American history. Born in 1732 a few houses away from the building where the accused Salem witches were imprisoned four decades earlier, he was apprenticed to a shoemaker and later moved to Marblehead, where he saved his money and bought a schooner. As a mariner he earned enough to purchase more ships. He joined the Marblehead militia in 1759 and soon worked his way up to the rank of captain of a ‘Military company of foot in the town of Marblehead.’ By 1776 he had become the regiment’s colonel. Washington knew that Glover was just the man to get his army out of its desperate situation. He also knew that there were spies in the ranks — one soldier had already been tried and hanged for his treachery and several others had been found guilty and put in prison — so he sent a misleading message to General William Heath on Manhattan: ‘We have many battalions from New Jersey which are coming over this evening to relieve those here. Order every flat-bottomed boat and other craft fit for transportation of troops down to New York as soon as possible.’ Then he ordered his quartermaster ‘to impress every kind of craft on either side of New York’ that had oars or sails, and to have them in the East River by dark. Anyone intercepting the messages would think that Washington was planning to bring reinforcements to Long Island in reality he hoped to evacuate his entire army before the British realized what he was doing.

The weather was still on Washington’s side. A drenching storm kept ‘Black Dick’s’ fleet out of the river and provided cover for the boat gathering. Late in the afternoon Washington met with his staff to tell them his real plans. As Colonel Benjamin Tallmadge wrote in a letter, ‘to move so large a body of troops with all their necessary appendages across a river a full mile wide, with a rapid current, in the face of a victorious, well-disciplined army nearly three times as numerous seemed . . . to present most formidable obstacles.’ The colonel was guilty of understatement.

The August nights were short, and Washington knew that if Glover had miscalculated the time required for the Herculean job, he would lose any troops unlucky enough to remain on the island at dawn. He had faith in the ‘tough little terrier of a man,’ and to help him he assigned a regiment of men from the Massachusetts towns of Salem, Lynn, and Danvers, sailors all.

The seamen began their work as soon as it was dark, about ten o’clock. The drenched Continentals left their entrenchments unit by unit and moved to the boats in darkness and in absolute silence. Each unit was told only that they were being relieved and were going back to Manhattan. They did not know that the entire army was doing the same thing. By the time any disloyal soldier discovered the truth, it would be too late for treachery. The quartermaster’s men had found only a few sailing craft, so there was much rowing to be done that night. At first the winds were favorable and the boats swiftly made the round trip to Manhattan, despite darkness and unfamiliar waters. Seamen in the rowboats plied them back and forth without a stop, oars muffled, across the fast East River current.

Washington stayed in the saddle, weary though he must have been. For several hours the situation looked favorable, but then the wind changed, blowing in combination with the unusually strong ebb tide. The sails could not overcome the two combined forces. Washington’s despair was partially alleviated when the men rigged the sailboats with temporary tholes, found oars, and rowed. But the tired general realized that many rearguard troops would still be on the island when dawn broke. Their loss would be a serious blow. Yet the seamen continued their race against time. ‘It was one of the most anxious, busy nights that I ever recollect,’ Benjamin Tallmadge recalled, ‘and being the third in which hardly any of us had closed our eyes in sleep, we were all greatly fatigued.’ At one point a rearguard unit under Colonel Edward Hand mistakenly received orders to move down to the water. Its movement left a gap in the lines that the British, had they been aware of it, could have used to smash through the American defenses. But the British didn’t know, and Washington, when he saw what had happened, hurriedly ordered the unit back into place.

In a few more hours luck rejoined the patriots. The wind changed direction and Glover’s men could again use their sails to speedily make the crossings and return. The tempo of the evacuation picked up, but the fickle wind had done its damage. As the dim first-light appeared in the cloudy, gray eastern sky, part of the rear guard was still on the wrong side of the river. As the sky lightened, however, a dense fog rolled in, obscuring the operation’s final movements. Colonel Tallmadge was in one of the last units to leave, and with regret he left his horse tied on the Long Island shore. Safe in New York, the fog as thick as ever, Tallmadge said, ‘I began to think of my favorite horse, and requested leave to return and bring him off. Having obtained permission, I called for a crew of volunteers to go with me, and guiding the boat myself, I obtained my horse and got some distance before the enemy appeared in Brooklyn.’ When the morning fog began to lift and the British patrols warily came to check on the American breastworks, they found them empty. Washington and the last of the rear guard were aboard the boats and sailing to safety. George Washington’s faith in John Glover and the seagoing soldiers had been vindicated. In about nine hours they had whisked 9,000 men and their supplies and cannon out from under the noses of the British. The Revolutionary cause lived on. Later that day, August 30, 10 British frigates and 20 gunboats and sloops finally sailed up the river. They were too late.

This article was written by J. Jay Myers and originally published in the June 2001 issue of American History Magazine. For more great articles, subscribe to American History magazine today!

Description of Series

This collection of George Washington Papers is organized into nine series, which are listed below. Additional information about some of these series may be found in the Series Notes under the Articles and Essays tab.

Series 1, Exercise Books, Diaries, and Surveys, ca. 1745-1799
Three exercise books (school copy books), ca.1745-1747, kept by Washington between the ages of about thirteen and fifteen thirty-six of the diaries kept by Washington from about the age of sixteen until his death in 1799 and notes and drawings documenting Washington&rsquos early career as a surveyor, 1749-1752 and undated. For more information, see the Series Notes.

Series 2, Letterbooks, 1754-1799
Forty-one letterbooks used by Washington to keep copies of his correspondence, dating from the beginning of the French and Indian War until his death. For more information, see the Series Notes.

Series 3, Varick Transcripts, 1775-1785
Forty-four letterbooks containing copies of the correspondence Washington accumulated as Commander of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. These were made by Richard Varick, at Washington&rsquos direction, in 1781-1785. Many of the original letters Varick copied from are in Series 4. For more information, see the Series Notes.

Series 4, General Correspondence, 1697-1799
The largest series in the George Washington papers consists of 297 volumes containing original letters to and from Washington. Also included are early family papers, speeches, military orders, farm reports, and other papers. Since Washington preserved drafts of his letters, and made letterbook copies of both outgoing and incoming correspondence, his letters often exist in multiple versions.

Series 5, Financial Papers, 1750-1796
Ledgers, journals, account books, cash books, pocket books, receipts, invoices, and business correspondence filling thirty-four volumes. These document the finances of Washington&rsquos public and private life his plantation at Mount Vernon, including the slaves who lived and worked there his military service during the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War his presidency, and his retirement. The financial papers also contain many detailed pieces of information about the family members, neighbors, servants and other employees, slaves, doctors, merchants, and tradespeople he dealt with. For more information, see the Series Notes.

Series 6, Military Papers, 1755-1798
A miscellaneous collection of twenty-six volumes dating from the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and the Quasi-War with France. With the exception of an orderly book Washington kept as an aide to General Edward Braddock during the French and Indian War and a Virginia Militia memorandum book, these are volumes that Washington accumulated during his military career but did not create himself. Most document the Revolutionary War and include orderly books, including some captured from the British interrogations of British deserters, lists of officers and provisions, court martial proceedings of Captain Richard Lippincott, diaries, copies of letters, and a few published volumes of military strategy. For more information, see the Series Notes.

Series 7, Applications for Office, 1789-1796
Thirty-two volumes containing letters Washington received from job-seekers while he was president of the United States.

Series 8, Miscellaneous Papers, ca. 1775-1799
The items in Series 8 are not different in substance from manuscripts elsewhere in Washington&rsquos papers. They were filed separately only because they arrived at the library separately from the bulk of Washington&rsquos papers. They include correspondence and miscellaneous notes, 1757-1799 military commissions, honorary degrees, and other certificates, 1775-1798 survey warrants, 1750-1752 and notes Washington made on his reading, ca.1760-1799. For more information, see the Series Notes.

Series 9, Addenda, ca. 1732-1943
Washington material acquired since 1970, organized by date of acquisition, and items that were removed from the first eight series as extraneous.

Revolutionary War: Northern Front, 1775-1777

In the first eighteen months of armed conflict with the British (the conflict would not become a "war for independence" until July 4, 1776), Washington had begun to create an army and forced the British army in Boston to evacuate that city in March 1776. The major question after their evacuation was what they would do next. Washington was almost certain that the British would attack New York, since that position was of critical importance for their operations both North and South. Besides, that is what he would have done had he been in Sir William Howe's shoes. Washington Passing the Delaware
George Washington Papers

Even though his premonition eventually proved true, British intentions did not become clear until their fleet descended upon New York in August 1776. For a variety of reasons, Washington and his generals made a number of mistakes during the engagements in the New York area. These mistakes and Britain's far superior naval power led to decided British victories on Long Island and on Manhattan. Had the British commanders been a bit more aggressive, their naval power might have put the Continental Army at great risk of total defeat.

After Washington was driven from Manhattan, his army fought Howe's forces to a standstill at White Plains. Even so, the British were now in control of New York City. Again, the question became, what would the British do next? Washington thought the logical next step for them to do was to move on Philadelphia, so he moved most of his army south into New Jersey. Indeed, British forces under General Charles Lord Cornwallis chased and harrassed the Continentals all the way through New Jersey. When Washington's army reached Trenton Falls, their fortunes seemed at low ebb. Surprisingly, at that point Howe ordered his army into winter quarters rather than attacking the Americans. Seizing the opportunity Howe presented him, Washington counterattacked at Trenton in late December 1776 and then at Princeton in early 1777.

What Washington had done in nine days was truly staggering. Just when many Americans thought all was lost, Washington had produced two major victories over one of the world's most powerful armies. Trenton and Princeton tended to put to rest the second-guessing about Washington's leadership, a belief that had grown as the Continental Army suffered defeats in New York and then retreated through New Jersey. These victories had also been watched closely by many European leaders they now came to view Washington as an adroit and able commander.

On the other hand, the British were not impressed with Washington's accomplishments. All in all, Lord North thought 1776 had been a very good year for the British. They had retained Canada and captured New York City, their losses of soldiers had not been great, and nearly 40,000 loyalists had received pardons from Howe. British leaders would also have been heartened had they fully known what Washington knew about the chronic problems experienced by the Continental Army. Washington was continually concerned with problems of the militia, recruits, and deserters and he constantly reminded Congress of the need for a standing professional army and a better system of supply.

Hamilton&aposs life unraveled after Washington&aposs death

His trusted advisor still on his mind, Washington reached out after news of Hamilton&aposs extra-marital affair became public in 1797, sending a wine cooler and a thoughtful note that expressed his support without mentioning the infraction.

The following year, with the country teetering on the brink of war with France, Washington accepted President John Adams&apos appointment as senior commander of the U.S. Army on the grounds that Hamilton becomes his deputy. "By some he is considered as an ambitious man, and therefore a dangerous one," Washington wrote to his successor. "That he is ambitious I shall readily grant, but it is of that laudable kind, which prompts a man to excel in whatever he takes in hand."

Their fruitful partnership came to an end with Washington&aposs death on December 14, 1799. Shortly afterward, Hamilton wrote, "I have been much indebted to the kindness of the General, and he was an Aegis very essential to me."

Indeed, Hamilton&aposs life began to unravel without Washington around to provide political protection and rein in his impulses. Hamilton supported his old enemy, Jefferson, over Aaron Burr in the 1800 presidential election, damaging his standing at the head of the Federalist Party. And when Hamilton continued to badmouth Burr during the 1804 New York gubernatorial election, Burr silenced him for good with a bullet in their fateful duel that July.

Watch the video: The American Revolution - OverSimplified Part 1